tv Piers Morgan Tonight CNN January 12, 2012 12:00am-1:00am EST
it's probably a really good thing. tomorrow, south carolina senator jim demen is going to come out front. we're going to talk to him about the south carolina primary, the economy and a whole lot more. he is pretty passionate about one specific thing. that is tomorrow out front. be there. and on that note, here's piers morgan tonight. tonight, newt gingrich, one on one, in filtered. >> this will be armageddon. they will come in here with everything they've got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack. >> south carolina's make or break moment. will going negative help the campaign or hinder it. will he accept the number two slot or romney ticket. could you imagine ever working for it? >> no. >> speaker of the house has always been a lightning rod for controversy. who's the real newt gingrich? >> this inner intensity that i have tended to in some ways be destructive. >> newt gingrich for the hour, piers morgan interview starts now.
good evening. eyes are on south carolina. the republican primary days away. candidates are swarming all over the state. here is something you may not know about one of them, newt gingrich. the man has an absolute passion for animals and zoos. he invited us to south carolina's science center. dog eat dog on the campaign trail. all the wild things in here seem pretty peaceful to me. with exception possibly of newt gingrich. why here? >> it's fun. it's interesting. it gets you back to nature. it reminds you of the world we live in and the fact that life is bigger than us. >> last time i saw you, you instinctively cited being in the african bush, seeing wild animals at play. it wasn't entirely surprising that you chose this location, but i walked around earlier, it seemed to be an appropriate
venue in the sense that right behind you is a large praying mantis, the most predatory animal on earth. >> think of that as the super pac. >> you could. you could. whose super pac? >> any. >> yours or mitt romney's. >> any super pac. i think the nature of those organizations is that they have no responsibilities, they have no connection to any kind of pattern of reasonable politics. and it's a model i hope we can get beyond, but we won't this year. >> last time i spoke to you, we talked about super pacs and you were scathing about the super pacs mitt romney was using, amount of money he was spending, implying these were his ex-staffers and friends and so on. you were trying very hard, and laudably, to rise above this and be nice guy newt. clearly that didn't work very well.
the halo, may i suggest, has slightly slipped, and your own super pac, $3.5 million worth is about to be unleashed in south carolina. presumably you would concede now you changed position on this. >> i concede every effort i made to stay positive and every effort i made to talk romney out of doing this failed, that you can't, you know, you can't unilaterally disarm unless you want to get out of the rest. since this is the objective reality, we have no choice, so we have to match in some way, we have to have effective advertising that matches their advertising or literally no matter how good your ideas are, how big your crowds are, weight of television and radio and direct movement -- in iowa, 45% of all the ads were attacks. >> you were blown to pieces. >> right. >> what your friends and supporters found surprising was that you allowed yourself to get in that position in the first place. i want to read you some of the things you have said before. they're quite interesting about how your position on this has changed.
you once said one of the great problems we have in the republican party is we don't encourage you to be nasty, we encourage you to be neat, obedient, loyal, faithful, all of those boy scout words that would be great around the campfire, but are lousy in politics. so where does saint newt come from? >> it is not a question of being saint newt, it is a question of where you're prepared to fight. i think when we are up against obama this fall, we're going to have no choice. they're raising a billion dollars. they clearly intend to run a continuous unending negative campaign. and you have to match that or you won't be in the same business. >> with hind sight, would you have played it differently in iowa? >> i would have reacted to attack ads, especially those that were untrue, and i might well have gone to contrast with governor romney's record in massachusetts much earlier. but you know, this is the beginning of a long process. frankly, i wanted to run the experiment. i wanted to see if you stayed
totally positive, if you were relentlessly positive, what would happen. well, it turned out you could come out with 14 or 15%, you could be fourth, but remember, i started pretty strong first in early december. so it's pretty clear that the relentless negative ads do have an effect. >> two very famous businessmen have tweeted about you today. rupert murdock, can't blame newt g too much. he was carpet bombed with negatives by romney. brilliant, visionary, but just too much baggage and erratic. what's your response to that. >> i like the brilliant, visionary part and i like the fact that he recognizes that the context in which we were responding is, in fact, in the context of carpet bombing by romney. that sets for a different tone. people give you permission to behave differently. it is sunk in, even in the news media there's a broad acceptance
that i took all the hits for three solid weeks and patiently tried to figure out if there's a way to stay totally positive. so i think there's a much higher tolerance now for me to bring up romney's pro-abortion record or tax increase record, or the degree to which romney governed in massachusetts with liberal judges. so i think you can now draw a contrast with a sense that that's fair, given the context of all of the negative ads. >> in answer to the too much baggage and the erratic allegations, i mean, a bit of truth in both, wouldn't you say? >> that's part of what i have to overcome. i think we have been pretty successfully overcoming it. prior to the negative ads when it was a question of good ideas, good solutions, positive thinking, we were literally pulling away, and gallup and others were reporting an increasingly wide gap, which is why romney picked panic and went to all out negative attack. the truth is today, as "the wall street journal" pointed out, i
have the best jobs plan, and his according -- a big gap in ideas. >> the critics were right. newt really will say and do anything to win. he is very pro-romney. >> give me a break. so romney lines up famous people for romney who will say anything and use jack welch's language. they will say anything to get romney elected. what's new? the fact is what i have said has consistently been conservative, and the only critique people are upset about is raising questions about a business record which romney has touted as the base of his presidential campaign. >> here's the potential flaw in going after bain. nobody knows the answer whether he created more jobs doing what he did at bain, taking over
troubled companies and in most cases making them more successful and selling them on, but at a cost, a human toll cost. a few went bankrupt. argument goes from their side, they probably would have anyway. did he create more jobs or did he wreck more jobs? do you know the answer? >> well, the point is if a guy is running for president, he has two major credentials. his record as governor which he doesn't want to talk about because he was more liberal as governor than a republican primary will ever endorse, and his record in business which he doesn't want to talk about. now, at what point are you allowed to say running on commercials alone isn't enough? >> if he manages to establish that his record at bain was such that he created more jobs than he effectively lost, you could argue that's exactly what is needed in america right now in the sense that you have to cut. >> but he makes that assertion anyway. but it doesn't prove it. he just asserts it. >> have you proven the opposite?
>> i just raised the question. certainly raised the question. it is not about capitalism and free enterprise, it is about values, character and judgment. and even he said i think it was in 2007 that he looks back at things he would do differently now. the question is in terms of values, character and judgment, were those the right decisions in those circumstances, and i said up front i think he is going to sooner or later go press conference and walk people through three or four of the most troubling cases. and anybody that thinks he is going to be able to get by obama and axelrod this fall without explaining this is kidding themselves. >> rick perry told me last night in a way you guys are doing him a favor because you're having the debate in the open now. >> yeah. >> the democrats have to get into it. >> last thing you want is to nominate somebody that collapses in september because they can't answer the questions. people want to attack for my past, that's fine. i will answer and be ready to be
the nominee or i won't. romney ought to have to meet the same test. >> he has been very scathing through the super pacs and also pretty personal against you. got pretty nasty, pretty quickly. only now are you responding. what do you actually think of it personally as a man. >> i don't. >> you have no view? >> i have no view. >> do you like him? >> he is a competitor. he is somebody who i think was unnecessarily negative and who knows that some of the things he ran were not true, but that's his decision. that's how he wants to play the game. >> you called him a liar last week. >> no, i responded to somebody that asked me that. >> same thing. >> well, if you watch sunday's debate, there's a marvelous paragraph where romney begins by saying i have never seen any of the ads. and then he outlines one of the ads exactly correctly. >> don't have to go to the sun to know it is hot, do you? >> i am saying, watch the
paragraph, then you decide. >> do you stand by the fact he is a liar about you? >> i stand by the fact that he is not truthful, i stand by the fact he doesn't want to be candid about his record as governor, and stand by the fact he doesn't want to be candid about the ads. all i ask you to do, watch, don't ask me, watch him. >> you said that character is very important for whoever wins this nomination, yet you won't tell me what you think of mitt romney. what do you think of his character. >> i don't have obligation to answer that. >> but if character is an important category for this nominee, isn't it perfectly acceptable to ask his competitors what they think of his character? if that is a criteria for choice. >> it should be quite clear that i believe that he ought to be candid about being a moderate. he ought to be candid about the fact he was consistently pro-choice, not pro-life as governor. his tax paid abortions.
he has planned parenthood written into romney care by name. he appointed pro-abortion judges. his government helped build an abortion clinic after he supposedly converted. you could go through a whole series of things, say there's a big gap between the romney commercial and the romney record. >> is he better for a leader, potential president of the united states, to admit they have been wrong and change their mind about issues or to stick stubbornly by their same platform on these things decade after decade? >> if somebody -- first of all, if you had a fairly long career, you should have changed your mind on something. i mean, there should have been something -- >> it would be strange if you hadn't, right? >> someplace where you said gee, i learned something new and now i have a different position. >> anything about romney's motivation for changing position? >> first of all, you go to romneytaxes.com, see every tax he raised while governor. he will pretend he didn't raise them.
as i said to you, after he claims he became pro-life, he went through pro-abortion steps as governor. these are facts. so i think you can look and decide for yourself. he will tell you that he's a conservative. he will appoint liberal judges consistently. >> could you imagine ever working for him? >> no. what does that -- he couldn't ever imagine working for me either? i mean that's just -- >> people become president and appoint people to key positions they don't necessarily like but who they really respect as political operators. you would be a big catch for a big job. >> you ask, i don't even think of him as president or thought about working for him. >> i asked to you consider the unthinkable. >> if you said the president of the united states asked you to do something, would you consider it, i am with jon huntsman. if the president of the united states of either party asks you to help on something that matters to the nation, you have an obligation as a citizen to see whether or not you can do it
because you owe it to the country, not to the personality. >> take a short break. come back, talk about south carolina. many are saying for you, newt gingrich, this is the biggest moment of your political life. maybe you don't agree, maybe you do. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com wait, what? fret not ma'lady. i have the hotels.com app so we can get a great deal even at the last minute. ah, well played sir. download the free hotels.com app and get exclusive mobile deals. hotels.com. be smart. book smart.
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gingrich is somewhat akin to being attacked by a pore cue pine. he attacks everywhere, no strategy, no consistent theme and looks so mean when he does it, it is not the most effective attack. >> ari fleischer, press secretary from george w. bush. keeping with the animal theme, newt gingrich is back, a porcupine. everywhere you look, someone is getting pricked. >> i don't think that's my reputation. that's fine if that's what ari fleischer wants to say. >> same ari fleischer also came out today in a column and said that actually given the amount of fire power you have going into south carolina with the super pac and ads it can buy you, buys a lot of ad time, you could be the one that could threaten mitt romney quite seriously. a dent to him there could precipitate a whole new battle ground. >> i think south carolina on the 21st is unbelievably important.
okay? romney, although he has anywhere close to getting majority, 3 to 1 republicans in iowa voted against him, 2 to 1 in new hampshire were against him. nonetheless, he can claim he won both, even if one was won by eight votes. if he wins here, he has enormous momentum towards the nomination. >> unstoppable? >> in this day and age, i don't know that anything is unstoppable, but he would have enormous momentum. >> if he won by more than 10%. >> if he wins by one point, he will go into south carolina ten days later, with enormous momentum. >> what would be a good result for you outside of winning? can there be a good result? >> this comes down to in order for the nomination process to go to a conservative, i have to beat romney on the 21st. and i think that's a decision south carolinians face very seriously, because the more they learn his record, the more they realize, for example, he's pro-gun control.
>> if you don't win, given you set that parameter, do you drop out? >> i don't know. i don't want to prejudge anything. >> is it that crucial? >> first of all, i think i'm going to win. the events in the first day here have been remarkable. >> politicians play hypotheticals. >> i am not answering hypotheticals. you can ask 23 ways. i am not answering. my goal is to win on the 21st. if we win on the 21st, we go to florida. it is a brand new game. at that point romney has to confront that when you get outside of, remember, new hampshire is his third best state after utah and massachusetts. so if he only gets 37% in his third best state and he can't win here, then i think you're in a very different nomination process. so this is going to be armageddon. they will come in here with everything they've got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack.
at the same time, we're going to be basically drawing sharp contrast between a georgia, reagan conservative and massachusetts moderate whose pro-gun control, pro-choice, pro-tax increase, pro-liberal judge, and voters of south carolina are going to have to decide. >> when it comes to armageddon, good way of putting it, he has a better machinery. >> yes. >> do you regret the fact your machinery has such cataclysmic start? disappeared in the summer. you said yourself, you did interviews, basically you're dead, what about the others. but you made an incredible come back. what you still don't have is the proper machinery. >> and because of money. romney ran for five years. he is a money machine. he has raised millions on wall street. >> is that his fault or good politics? >> i am not saying it is his fault, to try to match him at what he does best, which is raise money, would be a dead loser.
what i tried to match him at is what i do best, new ideas, better solutions, better ability to communicate with people. we had a pretty interesting campaign so far. >> is this the biggest week of your life politically? >> yeah, i think it is the most decisive week. this is the week when everything culminates. we either convince south carolinians to vote for a conservative and unify them around me or, you know, you see romney probably becoming the nominee. >> very quickly, what do you think of the other competitors? rick santorum, he had the santorum surge, took a bit of a hit in new hampshire, not necessarily surprisingly, is it over for him, continue to see him get traction. >> governor perry is here, i don't know if huntsman will -- >> are you surprised governor perry is around? >> he is a smart guy, governor the texas, he has the resources, if he wants to stay, he can.
the concern is how do we communicate to south carolinians they better pick one conservative, in which case would almost certainly be me, if they want to beat romney. any vote that goes to anybody else is going to be a vote that helps romney win. >> at what point does the party have to rally as you say. has it reached that point? >> the party never has to rally. >> doesn't have to collectively say we're going to have these two duke it out? >> no. >> does it help you have endless candidates carrying on? >> that's not the party's function. the party doesn't have any authority to do that. obama and hillary went all the way to early june. nobody thought they could step in and say gee, let's not do this. the american political process is the most wide open process on the planet, and it attracts very, very strong personalities, and they get to see what they can do. it is really a marvelous process for sorting out who's capable of
enduring the presidency. >> take a break. when we come back, i want to get personal with you. take you back to when you were 14 years old, and your stepfather bob took you to the old battlefields in france. and you had some extraordinary sites you saw that i think shaped in many ways the way that you became as an adult. back with my special guest, and i get the chance to spend more time with my wife and my kids. it's my world. that's my world. ♪ ♪
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back with my special guest, newt gingrich. mr. speaker, i want to talk to you about a time in your life. you're 14 years old. and your stepfather, bob, who is a military man, a tough man in many ways. he took you to the battlefields of france, verdon, i think it was. and as you walk through the war gra graves and you got a sense of just the scale of what had happened. you also had this very disturbing moment when you went down into some recess, some sell lar. >> it's a glassed-in, basement-like area that had the bones of a hundred thousand people that had been blown apart in the fields. the battle lasted for nine months. literally, back in that era, they went out after the war, put them all in this one
extraordinary memorial. we were staying with a friend of my father's who had been drafted in 1941 and sent to the philippines, served in the baton death march and spent three and a maf years in a japanese prison camp. so the combination of seeing the battlefield of this 600,000 men died in a nine-month period in this battle. and listening to him talk about the stories of defeat. and then a few weeks later, the french paratroopers killed the french fourth republic and brought back general degal to create the french fourth republic. i think that combination of things just drove home that this stuff is all real. this is just not a game. >> in the sense that you're going to face if you become president moments where you have to decide you take your country to war. it's going to happen to you. what did that tell you about warfare? i know you're a military -- >> it's deeper than just going to war. it's the question of how can you
make the historically right decisio decisions to give your children and grandchildren a prosperous, safe, free country. it may be avoiding going to war because you used the right build up, the right diplomacy. it's also how do you operate in a principle manner. you can't just ad hoc all of these different decisions. you have to have some underlying set of principle that is enable you to say, you know, for america to remain a great nation, for america to remain an exceptional nation, these are things that we have to focus on. you have had to set priorities. and where possible, you have to get ahead of the problems. one of the amazing things about both eisenhower and reagan is that they were able to sort of see around the corner. and so they could take steps that achieved a great deal at minimum risk. and both of them tended to avoid risk. >> many say the iraq war was completely false premise. and, therefore, this was --
let's not use the word illegal, it was just a pointless war that ended up costing a lot of lives, a lot of money and would have been much better off not involving american troops. given what you experienced on those battlefields, given what you saw, if you had been the commander in chief, would you have taken that decision? >> well, there were two decisions. there was the decision to go in. and then there was the decision to stay. you know, you can look back hindsight and say a lot of things. every intelligence service in the world believed sadham was dangerous. and given what they thought was a very real danger of sadham -- >> if you're president in a year's time chrks you may be, and you're faced with the same compelling evidence about the new leader in north korea, for example, what would you do? are you just going to accept that level of intelligence again? >> you mean with hindsight or without hindsight?
>> i'm looking at foresight. >> somebody walks in and says to you we believe iran is two weeks away from having a nuclear weapon. i think no american president, i can't say this about obama, but i think even obama would, in the end, not tolerate an iranian nuclear weapon. by then, you've been pushed into a corner where only military action is capable. the reason i cite reagan and eisenhower, you want to shape by taking steps now that alter the regime nonmilitarily. i'd say the same thing for north korea. our ultimate goal has to be to get beyond the dictatorship. >> america cannot afford to have another iraq-style conflict with either iran or north korea. you're not going to be committing hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground probably again. >> first of all, i don't think there's any circumstance where you want to put hundreds of thousands of troops into iran.
but there are circumstances where you might want to go after the nuclear program. and the question becomes -- this is what the real world is all about. you're suddenly faced with a choice. you're going to take the gamble he's not going to use them? but the whole middle east is dangerous. and the pakistanis have between one and two hundred nuclear weapons. they have a government that is very badly divided and have very substantial islamist radicalists. we have no idea whether one or two or three of those weapons are going to disappear some day. we live in a world that is vastly more dangerous than most of our elites want to deal with. >> if i said to you give me a phrase which would sum up your kind of overview of a modern american foreign policy, what would you say it would be? >> i would say it would be to protect the interest of america and her allies and to do it in
as effective a way as possible with the minimum of force and the minimum of risk. >> we'll take another break. let's come back and talk about the economy and bill clinton. you and he -- i had no idea about this, had the most extraordinary number of similarities in your lives. even you may not be aware of this. [ monica ] i'm away on a movie shoot and it hasn't been going exactly as planned. cut. cut! [ monica ] i thought we'd be on location for 3 days -- it's been 3 weeks.
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he is first resilient. and, secondly, he's always thinking. and he's got a million ideas. i mean, some of them are good and some of them, i think, are horrible. >> typically honest assessment there from former president bill clinton. back now, my guest, presidential candidate and speaker of the house, newt gingrich. fascinating similarities between you and the former president. this is from time magazine's 1995 person of the year write up about you. that dynamic between you and president clinton is all the more surprising given the similarities between the two men. born three years apart. each was the eldest child of a lively and worshipful mother. each tangled with a stepfather. they can both produce elementary schoolteachers. both are natural teachers.
verbally promiscuous and deeply pragmatic. both sacrifice everything for their public lives, but indulge themselves in their private loves. both are overeaters who tried pot and chased women. neither served in vietnam and both own 1967 mustangs. >> that's a fairly strange collection. [ laughter ] >> would you quibble with any of those comparisons? >> not much. i think he probably have more pure energy than i do. i mean, he's a very bright guy. but we had a little bit of a graduate student relationship. we'd sit in a seminar and talk. i think we drove our staffs crazy because we'd get off on ideas. and we were both leaders of ideas. we didn't just campaign and achieve power or achieve office. we actually liked getting things done. that's why you could have a conservative congressman, speaker of the house. and a liberal democrat in the white house and actually get a
lot done because we would hold pres c press conferences but then we'd meet and talk and sort it out. >> why is this not possible now? >> it is. >> but it's not happening. >> that's because you have an obama somebody who is a radical and who doesn't know how to negotiate. remember, clinton had been governor for 12 years. so clinton understood how to deal with legislators. and he understood that under a constitution, if i didn't schedule it, he wouldn't pass. and if he didn't sign it, it wouldn't become law. so we had a deep interest in learning how to work with each other. i don't have any sense that obama has the temperament or the skills or the interest in learning how to work for john boehner. >> they've actually been quoted as saying whatever it takes to make this guy a one-time president. we've got to get him out. >> we had a huge freshman class in 1994. so we had an enormous freshman
class. and they that had to come in. and as senator lindsey graham will tell you, it was frustrating. it was hard. it was difficult. but people of goodwill should be able to figure this out. but it has to start with a willingness on the part of the president to have a conversation. and clinton reached a decisive moment about june of 1995 where all of his liberal staff said to him you've got to fight gingrich every day. you cannot cut a deal. and he said to him if i do that, i'll be a one-term president. we have got to find a way to work together. and that made a huge difference. >> so is the pressure in this current, pretty self-serving and ridiculous on pass that i've witnessed, i've been on air now for a year and it seems like all the time washington is paralyzed. and it seems absurd to me that
the world's great democracy behaves like this. but what you're saying is it's mainly president obama's fault? >> i think the republicans don't quite get how to be clever. and there are things you can do that would break up the impasse. the president has no skills. if i were the republicans, i would find democratic bills that would fit my values. there's a web warner bill that provide for virginia. house republicans ought to pass it. make harry reid the senate democratic leader who now have a bill that's been passed on a bipartisan majority. but what's he going to do? i would look for ways to begin to break up the law. >> do people underestimate him? there are people saying it's all over again? >> i love the capacity of washington pun dants.
many, many years ago, meg greenfield said it's amazing how many people are wrong this saturday and sunday will be back on the air next saturday and sunday with a prediction based on no change. so i think we'll know in ten days. >> if you were in south carolina, are you thinking should i vote for this guy? what is the biggest misconception about you, personally? >> oh, i don't know. i think what i would say to people is that i have had a very long record as a reagan conservative. i am the only person in the race who actually balanced the budget four times. i'm the only person in the race who has negotiated with the president to get welfare reform passed. i have twice participated in huge numbers of jobs with reagan in the '80s. so i have -- i think i have three abilities that none of my competitors have.
first, i think i'm the person who could most likely beat obama in debate. second, i actually have ideas and solutions big enough for a country this size. and, third, i've actually done it. you are not sending an amateur to washington to learn how to do it. i've actually done it. >> and to those who say you are temperamental and you will blow up, that's the problem. your family who interviewed only this week assure me you've calmed down. you are a calmer newt gingrich. >> being a grandfather, they say. >> i think being married to calista has been an extraordinary mellowing and relaxing experience. plus, i think at 68, as a grandfather, you just have a different natural sense of time and sense of pacing. >> take another break and come back and talk about three of your favorite subjects. god, america and calista. to see it through.
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will be giving away passafree copies from the price to the room to the trip of the alcoholism & addiction cure. to get yours, go to ssagesmalibubook.com. again and again, the american people have demonstrated a remarkable ability to choose wisely when faced with great challenges. >> our best leaders have reminded us that we have a moral obligation to the cause of freedom. >> from documentary film city upon a hill, newt and calista gingrich.
how important is your wife to you? >> extraordinarily. i think i was very, very fortunate in finding somebody who is remarkably intelligent, very, very professional, very beautiful. a lot of fun. i mean, she got me to golf. anybody that can get me to golf -- that's so far beyond my expectation. and we just enjoy being with each other. we enjoy -- i think i relax vastly more around her than any other time. >> are you as happy with calista as you've ever been with any woman in your life? sure. totally. yes. it's a different world. i mean, you know, a long time ago, when i was trying to rise, when i was trying to do all sorts of things, i was a very driven person. and i had very -- i had a very intense life. and the intensity was as much inside me as it was around me. and i think that getting to know
calista really unwound a piece of me and got me to go to a different rhythm and be surro d surrounded by just a different attitude. i remember one time very early on, she turned to me and she said i'm not going to let your bad mood infect my good mood. >> that's a good line. >> i just stopped in my tracks and she had captured this inner intensity that i had, tended to, in some ways, be destructive. >> for a conservative running in a republican nomination race, you'll be aware that the baggage of your previous marriages, the circumstances behind the divorces and so on, is a stick to beat you with for those who want to do that. do you object to that in principle? do you accept it's a valued criticism? >> i think people have the right to ask of every presidential candidate virtually everything. i have an obligation to look them in the eye and tell them how i honestly feel. that i have done things in the
past that were wrong, but i have had to go to god for forgiveness and seek reconciliation. and i've had to measure who i am today and decide that a happily married 68-year-old grandfather is a person who has learned from his mistakes, is actually a very stable person capable of leading the country. >> you're a catholic. calista is a catholic. how has that changed you as a person. ? >> there is a power to the eucharist in the catholic tradition. there's a power to the community -- you know, one of the things people would say to me is welcome home. and there's this sense of family that is vastly more fulfilling and vastly stronger than i would ever have imagined. and i tell people i didn't so much decide to be catholic. as i gradually, by going to the basilica where she's been sing ng the choir since 1996, i
gradually became catholic and then one morning the decision caught up with what had happened to me. >> i suppose the obvious battleground of many battlegrounds in south carolina will be religion. mitt, the front runner, is a mormon. and to many evangelicals, they think it's a bit of a weird religion. what do you think? >> i think that's something that romney has to be able to explain. >> do you, as a catholic, find it strange? >> no, and i'm not judgmental about how people go to god. i think we have traditions and different people go to god in different ways. and i'm very respectful. >> let's take a final break. i want to talk to you about america. the key challenge now isn't necessarily the pairing in america. the bitter phrase i've heard is how do you keep america great? now there are other great powers emerging. how do you keep america great? this is an rc robotic claw.
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>> yes. >> an elephant. >> why? >> they have 105 muscles in their trunk. >> you want 105 thousand muscles in your trunk? >> and they're big. they last a long time. they're smart. they're social animals. very few things can attack them. >> what kind of animal would you think mitt romney would be? >> i have no idea. and i'm not going to go down that road. >> he was called a as a rule churl capitalist yesterday. >> i think texasing tend to speak in very colorful language. >> how are we going to keep america great because you've got china, you've got india, you've got these super powers emerging who are genuine rivals. but america remains, at its heart, a great country. what are the key things a new president needs to do? >> well, i think, first of all, you have to offer an optimistic vision of a hopeful, successful,
american future. you have to deregulate a great deal so that you liberate the american people to once again go and be creative. you have to change the tax code to maximize savings and investment and work so people are rewarded when they do the right things. and you have to challenge every parent in every neighborhood to help their children with their education and to fundamentally overhaul our education system. >> you've mentioned parents there. your mother -- you were recently talking about your mother. she had a lot of problems in her life, but loved you dearly. your stepfather, we talked about him earlier. there was a poignant moment when you became speaker and you called him to thank him for what he contributed to you. what do you think he would make of the newt gingrich that you've become? >> well, considering that he wrote from korea after i did my very first newspaper article at ten and he said to my mother keep him out of the newspapers.
he would say -- i think he would just say that this amazing journey is continuing. and i think he'd look on with both a sense of humor not to take it too seriously. and with a sense of pride. >> would yhe prefer the newt gingrich today to the one that he found slightly less savory? >> yeah, i think he would say it was nice i finally grew up. and i think he would regard that as a good sign. he was a pretty tough, direct guy. >> what would you mother make, do you think? >> my mother would just love me. my mother loved me under any circumstance. it was absolutely unconditional. and she just thought that, you know, i was newty. >> do you feel like you've almost spent the last 50 years bracing yourself for this week? >> yeah, in a sense that this is the -- not just this, but then beyond that to the nomination and beyond that to the election and then to serve. you know, i spent 53 years trying to understand what do we need to do? w